I planned to take some time off from telling fish stories, but some are too good to pass up. Like the one about the snake in the trout.
“It’s quite a story,” said Roger Schmidt, the guy who lived to tell about it. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Some people know Roger as the guy who’s married to Mary Hunt, an acclaimed local artist who creates finely detailed Southwestern style paintings, usually featuring pottery, birds and Native American artifacts. Some know him as an assistant football coach for Gering High School. He’s also a ranch manager.
“I mostly work at staying retired,” he said. “I like to get a lot of walleye fishing in.”
But from now on he’ll be known as the fisherman who caught a trout so big that it swallowed a rattlesnake.
The story begins at Grayrocks Reservoir, an impoundment on the Laramie River in Wyoming just upstream from Fort Laramie National Historic Site, a lake perhaps best known for walleyes and crappies. It also contains smallmouth bass and a few big trout, as Schmidt had learned during previous trips. He was fishing with John Seiler and doing pretty well when he decided to try trolling for trout. After a few minutes he caught one almost 19 inches long, with a heavy belly that made him curious about what the fish had been feeding on.
“I figured it was a big sucker or something,” he said. “When we cleaned it, we were both shaking our heads.”
It quickly became apparent that the fish had swallowed a snake almost as long as it was — a 17-incher. Schmidt, who’s been fishing since he was a kid, had never seen anything like it before. He recognized the fish’s hapless prey as a rattler. Luckily, a dead rattler.
“I saw the markings on it,” he said. “I’ve been around rattlesnakes my whole life. I kill about 15 of those things a year.”
Seiler sent me a photo as proof. It included only the fish’s entrails and the partially digested snake, tiny black rattle and all. I figured it didn’t pass what we in the newsroom call the Grandma Test: “Would you want your Grandma to read/see that in the paper?”
In this case, no. It’s a bit unappetizing, to say the least. You’ll just have to take our word for it. But Schmidt’s glad he has the photo to convince skeptics.
“When I told some people I did it, they thought it was a little one,” he said. “This was a lot bigger rattlesnake than I thought they’d eat.”
Predictably, he’s taking a bit of good-natured kidding from his fishing buddies since the event. A few smart-alecs have offered to provide him with some bigger bait — alive, of course.
He turned them down.
“A friend asked what would happen if he tried a two-foot snake.” he said. “I told him he’d probably get bit.”